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Spotlight on Jazz: Louis Jordan; an artist ahead of his time…

February 1, 2012

Louis Jordan was an immensely talented singer with great comedic flair, and he fronted his own band for more than twenty years. He duetted with some of the biggest solo singing stars of his day, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Jordan was also an actor and a major black film personality—he appeared in dozens of “soundies” (promotional film clips), made numerous cameos in mainstream features and short films, and starred in two musical feature films made especially for him. He was an instrumentalist who specialized in the alto saxophone but played all forms of the instrument, as well as piano and clarinet. A productive songwriter, many of the songs he wrote or co-wrote became influential classics of 20th-century popular music.

Although Jordan began his career in big band swing jazz in the 1930s, he became famous as one of the leading practitioners, innovators and popularizers of “jump blues”, a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie. Typically performed by smaller bands consisting of five or six players, jump music featured shouted, highly syncopated vocals and earthy, comedic lyrics on contemporary urban themes. It strongly emphasized the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; after the mid-1940s, this mix was often augmented by electric guitar. Jordan’s band also pioneered the use of electric organ.

Here is Jordan and his band with Choo Choo Ch’boogie…

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